Friday, August 17, 2018

Misfits



Earlier this week, Disney unveiled the first images of the live-action feature film Mulan, which will see its release in March 2020. I had been a bit (extremely) skeptical about live-action adaptations ever since Hollywood botched Dragon Ball to pieces. I had my misgivings early on (because, well, how?); but as a die-hard fan since it first aired on Club Dorothée at the end of the 80’s, I figured I would still give the film a chance. Only five minutes in, I was already cringing. It was painful. It was devastating. I had to walk out before my childhood dreams were completely shattered. Truth of the matter is that, apart from Akira Toriyama’s masterpiece, plenty should really stick to the plain old, classic animated format: that is what makes them special to begin with. Regardless of cinematographic techniques getting better by the minute, live-action adaptations just cannot reenact the magic. That being said, I do have to admit that not all adaptations were as catastrophic as that terrible Dragonball Evolution (it left an open wound, didn't it?) I was quite pleased with The Beauty and The Beast. The excellent Emma Watson shines as Belle – and Chinese superstar Liu Yifei, in all fairness, looks superb and could do Disney’s beloved Mulan justice.  

I still recall the day I watched Mulan back in 1998. I returned to the cinema a few days later to watch it again. I took a particular liking to her – not only because Mulan was the first Asian Disney Princess, but her witty, brave and honorable personality spoke to me. Cutting her hair short (I had short hair!) and dressing like a man (I wore my brothers' clothes til I turned eighteen!) in order to join the army in lieu of her father? Love of family, love of country, against all the odds, being a courageous and independent woman in a man’s world: the fearless heroine embodied values and qualities young women could look up to. I certainly did. And without fail, of course, there was a happy ending. 

Like millions of women of my generation (rather, of any generation), I grew up with uplifting Disney movies : whimsical tales, devoted sidekicks-slash-companions and to top it all, inspiring songs everyone would karaoke to for all the years to come. We saw the appeal. The optimism was contagious. The formula, concluding on the lovebirds living happily ever after, inviting. The belief, yes, the hope of that ideal end credits sequence blatantly (even secretly) paved the path. Immediately, young girls everywhere set eyes — and heart — on living their own fairy-tale stories (though, if we think it out, children that age should not even be considering, not in the slightest, a romance): true to form, a childlike aspiration that will stick in women’s minds like a magnet, long into adulthood –– though possibly folded, reinvented, torn apart and taped back one too many times to count over time –– a hopeful aspiration nonetheless. 

Coming of age in literature, movies, pop culture and ultimately — in life — has been a cloying curiosity for many years. As a matter of fact, I suspect to have already relished the Bildungsroman genre and implications, without being fully aware of it, when I was going through mine. There is something magnetic, consuming, utterly riveting about that weirdest fucking phase: hormones skyrocketing through the roof, your body changing, your mindset keeps on changing and you pining for adults, boys and siblings to stop treating you like a child erratically… It is a well of questions and possibilities, and the roads are delicate. Most of all, there is that constant tug between the rapture of still being a child and the need to act like a proper grown-up. Young adults – what a term. What a stage. Undeniably, it is a testing time yet in my opinion, the most fascinating one. After recently seeing my niece, almost fourteen, I now understand why parents, grand-parents, uncles and aunties shout of surprise once they recognize that their baby no longer is… one. Funnily enough, until your own in turn reach puberty, you cannot possibly comprehend that those hugs and kisses  –– the ones you used to duck hysterically as well –– are truthfully the highest form of love. The urge to embrace them as if they still were will quietly –– or ecstatically –– always melt your heart. I am one of them today: I changed your pampers and all of a sudden, you have a crush-slash-puppy love-slash-whaaaaaaaat boyfriend?

The transition is tricky. If coming of age was hard; raising one at that stage must be harder. That tug between chaperoning children –– adolescents really –– for as long possible and letting them grow up and make their own choices is, frankly, a distressing task. You wish to protect them because by now, you discovered that life, or love especially, is nothing like an animated movie. ’Crisis’ is certainly an integral part of the Disney recipe, as it is in reality; but you have also made the experience that it will not automatically conclude on happily ever after… Not the fairy-tale kind at least. Frogs end up staying frogs. The man you believed was your prince marries another and after a while, although there are plenty of fish in the sea, aren’t you just tired of looking for Nemo? Disney animations pave the path, rightfully so, they make our eyes marvel; at the same rate however, they also set a, let us be honest here, Utopian benchmark on what your end credits should entailGirls at the prime of their youth relate to Disney princesses –– already idolize the idea of a prince even more; then for the majority, it morphs into a Peter Panesque aspiration. Their prime aspiration – as if nothing else worthy happens or will ever happen until –– unless there is –– The Happy Ending (yes, in capital letters, that is how legitimate people regard it.) Why is a fairy-tale wedding an achievement? Why is marriage the achievement? And if you are over the age to marry, especially if you have not found –– or even desired ––  Prince Charming, why does society still dictate that you cannot live happily ever after without one?

At a pop-store a couple of weeks ago, I found a series of T-shirts featuring Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White & Co. covered with tattoos, piercings and dramatic make-up. The entire Princess Line with a punk rock attitude, in other words, the tops were awesome. I got myself the Jasmin one: dolled-up, holding a cigarette, wearing a Misfits shirt instead of her famous turquoise ensemble. I fancied how this artist revisited these characters –– not because they got the 'bad-ass', actually non-princess-like makeover; but mainly because the premise and frame of mind of being a princess was spot on. I remember why I admired Mulan so much in the first place: love of family, love of country, against the odds, being a courageous and independent woman in this man's world. She embodies values and qualities both young girls and grown-up women should look up to. It was not only about the fairy-tale ending. It was never only about the boy. However, it does come down to becoming a woman with character and integrity. She lived on her own terms –– which, I reckon, I managed to apply to my own life. I am a princess. A bad-ass at that. Ultimately, this is the guidance I will give and aspiration I wish upon the youngsters in my circle: make your own path. The Disney charm begets different points of view depending on whether you watch the movies with childlike innocence, adolescent qualm or mature experience; but in the end, one thing remains the same through the ages: even if life, and love especially, taught you that it is not always a fairy tale, your story can still be magical.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Past tense


She was,
She used to be,

I still startle

There will no longer be
Any new memories.

I look up
When the skies cry
When there is not a cloud in sight

I talk about her in the past tense now.

Eye on my arm
God squeezes my heart,

I remember the feel
Of toying with her
Sagging skin
’Til mine ages,
I will beam at my ink.

I talk about her in the past tense now.

On nights I cry,
On fine nights
I burst with life,

She cradles my heart.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Passion

Ironic, I know, I mumbled awkwardly after explaining to my date that whilst words command my life; there is categorically nothing in this world that makes my heart pound as much as techno does. For those unfamiliar with this genre, I will want to quote a few of the most hypnotic DJs and producers in the industry. “Techno is a group of like-minded people communing through a love of uncompromising dance music” –Jeff Derringer. "Techno is the music of now, enjoy the moment” –Ben Klock. “Machine Funk” –Ben Sims; or as the prodigal Rødhad simply puts it, techno is “rhythm”. The beat. That bass. The unending roads of a set.  The reason it is hard to define this genre of electronic music is because it often "warrants snarls and cues defensive answers from traditionalists" (Frankie Francisco, “What does Techno Actually Mean to DJs and Producers?); DJs and fans alike have truly become a bunch of elitist, scrupulous advocates. Friendly, but unapologetic. This is techno – and do not dare call that crap techno.

I will go on for hours – writing or dancing to techno music. Writing, earphones stumping. Then, my date looked at me, lightly biting his lower lip, hesitant; as if he feared my reaction to what he was about to say next: Actually, a passion for both is not contradictory at all. I was definitely intrigued. As a matter of fact, it makes perfect sense. You write; and with this music, you are not overshadowed or overpowered by anything else. It leaves all that space for your own thoughts, own concepts, own observations; which, well, you put into words. Your own. There is something quite spellbinding, liberating really, when a complete stranger gives such insight on your soul. We hardly hit it off except for that tiny window where in a snap, he managed to reverse all existing layers that, I believed, defined me. There is no paradox. He was right. 

I returned last Sunday from another magnificent, hair-raising, spine-tingling, heart-stirring techno marathon in Germany. Love Family Park, one of the most beloved festivals, made its comeback after a year break. It moved to a new location; the unsparing atmosphere, though, remained unblemished. I have been in the scene for nearly half of my life, having set foot in the darkest of little clubs to being gobbled up by thousands in the most renown venues around the globe;  after all these years, still going the distance to dance specifically to one’s set. Richie Hawtin is, and always will be, my favorite example. As the magic of Love Family Park 2018 slowly finds its niche in my routine, I can only rave (see what I did there?) about how my love of techno still – perpetually unleashes my best self.

Various factors impact a crowning experience. First and foremost, the music. The beat. That bass. When the set is sublime, and boy do we know: the longer the set, the better it can become, culminating to a higher level. Higher. Higher. Hands high up in the air, to oblivion. There are no words (see what I did there? PART II). Secondly, the crowd. In my experience, techno disciples are by far the coolest people I have ever met. Sure, we are ‘conservative’ in regards to our definition of techno; however, this open-heartedness –– effortless, unfeigned, welcoming –– unites us. Come as you are. Moreover, Love Family Park was proof that our scene now summons generations of fans, from loyalists who count a number of Love Parades under their belt to rookies who only recently started to add parties to their portfolio. There is no age for techno and for these few steady hours spent on the same premises, we become one facing this DJ who sets the tracks in our hearts. It takes two to tango; but here, you get to dance with the whole wide world. I have claimed since my beginnings that one of the things I venerate is that the scene, like the music, grants this intrinsic, powerful yet hushed connection – not only to your own core, but to your peers as well. It is not background music; we are here to fucking dance. Alone, together. Together, on our own.

It is my spirit that moves. Almost possessed, I let it all in. I let it all go. A rave is a journey. It screams freedom. And truth be told, it has to be madness. Techno means being utterly present in the moment – and this commitment to throbbing, dark ‘rhythm’ for hours on end is to bring exactly who you are, right there, at that exact point in time, to light. A constant in my life, yet it also justifies my evolution. I am my most passionate self when I dance: fluid, seriously ecstatic, at one with the world, at one with myself.

He was right. The unending roads of techno do not dispute my other true love in life at all. I write like I breathe. If anything, then, the music compliments my writing. I noticed, especially during these past months, that the more I know, the faster I may write. But the less I do, the better I write. Much better. Not to say that nothing else, in particular literature or any other music genre with lyrics for that matter, do not influence or inspire my writing at all; of course they do, they have to. Nevertheless, techno’s somewhat no vocals policy does take one on a mysterious adventure; as does a blank page. I am completely free –– and being a colossal instrument to how I live my life – rather, how I like to live my life – techno truly encourages me to find my voice as a writer. Being my own person.

Often, I pause mid-sentence, look up and review my surroundings as I let the end of my idea brew in my head. A young mother feeding her newborn, a group of girlfriends toasting with champagne, a handsome man immersed in his book, the trees dancing, the chatter of passerby. I reach for my coffee and attempt to remove the messy work of art of lipstick and stains with my thumb. With no exception, to no avail. Mark my words like the imprints I leave on my cup.